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Posts published in “Rainey”

Could you shoot your neighbor?

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

(The following was written a week before the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre. It’s here today with no apologies.)

Imagine your neighbor has begun nailing all his furniture to the floor, has tied his pickup to a tree and put long ropes on all three kids. He’s convinced God is going to turn off gravity across the world and all he has and cares about will be drifting out into space. Soon.

Now, before you write the guy off as an idiot from our little burg-in-the-woods, hear him out. Listen to his reasoning. Here it is. “It hasn’t happened yet – which means it will.”

That’s right. You got it. Gravity still worked this morning and is likely to continue all day. But, in his world, gravity will end – everything and everyone will become weightless and fly off the earth. He knows it’s true. Because “it hasn’t happened!”

With precisely this same kind of anti-logic, thousands and thousands of Americans have been rushing to gun stores since our general election. They are cleaning off the shelves of rifles, shotguns, semi-automatic weapons, pistols and millions of bullets. Some stores have been cleaned out and the underground weapons business is going strong, too.
So what connects these two unrelated pieces of nutcase off-the-wall-ness? Well, two things. First, President Obama has been re-elected. And, second, he’s going to take away your guns and put extremely high taxes on ammunition. The same ammunition gun owners won’t need if he takes their guns. Oops. Just injected some rational thought there. Sorry.

Some stores sales are up 100% in a year. Seems lots of people “think” they will need more guns and ammo to protect themselves because government is going to take away their “absolute” rights and they need protection. Though it hasn’t happened. Which means it will.

But the REALLY deep thinkers promise the President may also end the food stamp program. And IF that happens, people will need a lot of firepower to protect themselves from the starving masses.

None of this – NONE of this – is made up. I swear. Except my ersatz neighbors tying down all their worldly possessions so they don’t float off when gravity ends – which they will because it hasn’t. But these gun nuts are sure what hasn’t happened is going to happen. Because it hasn’t. But it makes the point. (more…)

Christmas in Connecticut like no other

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

A week or so ago, a friend and I spent a few hours bell-ringing for the Salvation Army in our little burg-in-the-woods. It’s one of the annual activities of our Rotary club – one I look forward to each year. Not so much now.

My friend and I have stood in the cold outside several local “big box” stores through the years. We have time for good conversation and, for the most part, enjoy interacting with others during the holidays. My favorite moment is when a young parent puts a few coins in a small child’s hand and shows them how to put the money in the red kettle. Then quietly instructs, “Say ‘Merry Christmas’.” Touches my old heart.

What doesn’t touch my heart is watching what too many shoppers have put in their carts as they roll out past us to the parking lot. Oh, there’s the usual supply of small appliances, toys, clothes, lots of electronic stuff and a bit of groceries here and there. Just like the carts in your town, I’d guess.

But we keep seeing more. Cases of beer. Many per cart. Boxes and bottles of wine. Many per cart. And guns. And boxes of ammunition.

Now, I’m a tippler. And a gun owner. So my reaction to this annual scene is not one of moral judgement by the uninitiated. My own shopping could mean buying a firearm of some sort, maybe some ammunition and – more often – some spirits.

No, what I have trouble with each December is reconciling the armament and bulk alcohol with the real spirit of Christmas. Thinking of the birth of Christ as reported in the gospels – remembering tenderness, wonderment, joy and surprise we experience – filling our thoughts with Christmas.

And especially this Christmas – 2012 – when we mark the murder of 20 elementary school children who went to school one morning – looking forward to pageants, plays, singing carols, exchanging gifts and learning more each year about the true “reason for the season.” Doing all the “kid things” we did. They were anxious with fun and hope – doing projects they’d spent hours and hours practicing. Until bullets ended all that. (more…)

Really unaffiliated

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

STOP THE PRESSES! HOLD THE PHONE! Or, as Wolf Blitzer would say, “We have BREAKING NEWS coming into the Situation Room!” Well, that’s what he tries to say – no matter how it comes out.

Have you heard of the “nones?” No, not “nuns.” NONES! Well, you’re going to get familiar with that label and be seeing and hearing more about that group if you follow elections. It’s the newest identifier word among political wonks and the Nate Silver’s of the world.

“Nones” are officially voters who have no specific religious affiliation. The “nones.” In the 2012 election numbers, “nones” accounted for 17% of the vote. Put in perspective, 17% is larger than Hispanic vote, 18-24 year olds or the hardest core of pro-lifers. Can you say “significant?”

The Pew Research Center says this new classification of voters is “politically important and consequential” and “one of the strongest Democratic constituencies in the population.” In 2012, Pew found about one in five survey respondents called themselves “atheist,” “agnostic” or “nothing in particular.” All said they never attend church.

Now that attendance information might be unimportant if you figure there are probably a lot more “unchurched” folks out there who don’t vote. So what? But if 17% of the people who DO vote can be identified, the question for political campaigns is “how do we reach them?” ‘Cause they gotta be reached!

These folks are important. In 2008, for example, numerically they were as reliable a constituency for Barack Obama as white evangelical Protestants were for John McCain. Democrats didn’t identify the “nones” and go after those votes! There was no specific effort to target them. How could there be? And their number grew a full three percentage points from 2008-2012.

The demographics of “nones” make them hard to appeal to. They seem to be liberal on social issues – more likely to support same-sex marriage and legalized abortion. But half surveyed called their political ideology “conservative” and about 40% “moderate.” A real mixed bag. Still, they appear to lean heavily toward Democrats.

It’s not surprising that two-thirds of the “nones” believe churches and other faith-based organizations are too involved in politics while 70% say religious institutions are “too concerned with money and power.”

Remember – it’s the “money and power” factors that make groups like evangelical Christians and Catholics targets of political campaigns because they can plug into nationwide communications networks and fund raising. These “nones” don’t have a system of connection so, again, how do you find them and how do you reach them? (more…)

Left, right … or middle

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Whatever happened to the word “moderate?” You hardly here it these days. If you’re talking about someone’s politics, “so-and-so is on the right” or “so-and-so is on the left.” But no moderate. If you’re talking media, there’s “right” and “left” and “conservative” and “liberal.” But no moderate. If it’s congress, members are referred to as “right” and “left” but too seldom “moderate.” The word has almost disappeared.

My Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines moderate as: “avoiding extremes; observing reasonable limits; avoiding extreme political or social matters or behavior; reasonable; one who favors a moderate course.” Still sounds good to me.

I have friends on the right. And friends on the left. Over the years of my journalistic career, some of each have accused me of being a fellow traveler with the other. Right or left. And people I’ve never heard of who respond to these opinion pieces often start out by labeling me one or the other. Right or left. After so many years of this, I’ve learned to immediately discard whatever the response if it starts out “You are obviously a right winger – or left winger……” Or “nut.” Or “crazy.” Or worse.

For reasons I don’t fathom, we seem to have to label everyone. Assign them a space on some imaginary line that runs from right to left, left to right or some other extreme. Or put them in a box with a label on it. We do it with movie stars. George Clooney is obviously on the left while Sylvester Stallone is a “rightie.” We do it with musicians, rock stars, economists, scientists, the homeless and – at times – God. I’ve heard Jesus described both right and left. We do it with churches. Presbyterians, of course, are “always” left – Baptists and fundamentalists are “always” to the right. Whether true or not. (more…)

Getting facts or drinking kool-aid?

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Now that Nate Silver has achieved the title of “Most Accurate Pollster To Ever Poll A Poll,” I’d guess he’s deeply involved in negotiating a new, well-earned deal at The New York Times for considerably higher wages. Wonkish to the top of his little bifocals, he called 49 out of 50 state congressional races and gave the Obama administration reason to sleep well during the late stages of the presidential run.

With campaigning over for awhile, young Nate should be taking time off to peddle his book or teach advanced statistics at Columbia. But, NO, not the Prince of Polls. He’s writing his almost-daily column and still digging around in discarded reams of other people’s polls on the campaign floor. His findings are interesting.

Mitt and many of his former gang are in various stages of seclusion. A few – at the top of what has to be the least informed and least effective presidential campaign staff in history – are speaking out about their hammering. Some are proving conclusively – on Faux News and CNN and in various op-eds- that they were bad at their jobs. Likewise, the GOP is searching blindly to see what it all means. So far, it’s clear they don’t know. All of ‘em should be talking to Silver. He knows exactly.

It’s important to remember Nate doesn’t do polling. He carefully selects data from those who do. Not all of it fits his needs. Sort of like scoring at the Olympics – throw out the top and bottom – take your numbers from the middle. Plus some mumbo-jumbo only Nate understands while adding his own “secret ingredients.” As he has said, “avoid the passion and stick with the numbers.”

While Mitt was contributing almost daily to his own electoral demise, Neal Newhouse and his other polling elves were blindly assisting. They were living in a data “cone of silence” exclusive of outside information. When that happens, and you have even one error, it becomes a part of the base data and is perpetuated in everything that comes after. Simple as that. Like getting ALL your news only from Fox. Or MSNBC. Any one source. (more…)

Fiscal cliff or backroom poker?

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Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

A magician’s best weapon to fool you is “misdirection – a word, a gesture or a movement to make you think or look at something different from what the guy’s actually doing. When the really good ones master the concept, you’ll be fooled every time. Works well in politics, too.
All our national media is awash in “fiscal cliff” hysteria. Will we go over? Will we be saved at the last minute? How bad will it be? Who’ll be to blame? All this “cliff” business is drowning out just about everything else. To me, all that noise is misdirection. You gotta keep your eye on what they’re doing – not what they’re saying.

Both sides are dug in. Really entrenched if you believe the talking heads. “Absolutely no way they’ll get together on anything before the end of the year” all the “experts” say. Maybe. Maybe not. A little piece of news out of the U.S. House this week may have more to do with that “misdirection” analogy than the media thinks.

Speaker Boehner jettisoned four of his soggy tea baggies off two important committees. Huelskamp of Kansas and Amash of Michigan are no longer on House Budget. You remember that group? Paul Ryan chairs that one. He of “Ryan Budget” fame. Medicare vouchers and all that. The other two – Schweikert of Arizona and Jones of North Carolina – no longer have keys to the House Financial Services Committee men’s room.
All four were abruptly dropped – apparently told by the media before being officially informed – for what House leadership said was “failure to be team players.” And what had these miscreants done? Well, three voted against the Ryan budget in committee or on the House floor. And Jones openly challenged leadership by opposing the war in Afghanistan. Defiance of orders to “get in line and go along.” Plus – he’s a budget “hawk.”

While such punishments are not normally worth noting outside the inside pecking order, these four get my attention. They share a common connection – three contaminated by tea baggerism and a fourth spouting anti-war sentiments. All are bedrock hard opposing new taxes. Of course, they’re not the only ones in the House. But – when pushed to a vote in the “official” House budget process – these four have been among the loudest naysayers. They want more and much deeper cuts in the national debt and no – absolutely NO – tax increases of any kind. Not likely they’re going to change. For any reason. These are not the kind of guys you want in positions of authority behind your back if you’re Boehner and trying to compromise with the rest of your caucus and the White House.

That’s why I label this interior shuffling “misdirection” and give it some importance. Boehner’s team is going to lose some votes on the House floor no matter what the final meeting-of-the-minds compromise turns out to be. He knows that. He also knows if he can’t get enough votes from hardliners in his financial committees to get any compromise out for a full vote, all Republicans are going to get pounded in the 2014 election because the public already perceives them as obstructionists. Polling in recent days has run as high as 58% against them if there’s no deal.

Boehner – who’s been a real underachiever in the Speaker’s job – wants desperately to compromise. But, to do that, he has to do some House “cleaning” or any agreement he signs onto will die before it’s born.
At the same time, in the Senate, eight members from both parties have been secretly trying to build a budget deal. Idaho’s Mike Crapo is one of ‘em. Using the Simpson-Bowles report as a starting point, this little group has been cutting, shifting and whittling numbers for a couple of months. And – with rumored “unofficial” input from the White House. Scuttlebutt is they’ve made significant progress. Enough so their discussions have turned to how to get whatever their final plan is through the House. If this group of “four+four” is successful, odds are good their compromise will be approved by the full Senate. But, what about the House? What if all their work winds up dead in some House committee because the extreme minority of goofy tea baggerists can keep it bottled up? (more…)

Christmas of the witless and departed

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

There are two ways to know for certain when Christmas is upon us:

Faux “News” begins its annual defense against the “War On Christmas” and the stores are filled with voices of dead people singing Christmas songs.
The Faux children got an early start this year in their defense of something against which there is no “war.” Just before Thanksgiving, Murdoch’s Misfit Munchkins were sounding the alarm with “breaking news” to match their breaking zits. Christians and faux Christians were being warned that “this time it’s real!”

Actually, this is the kind of “war” I most enjoy. A phony one. As we send out Christmas cards, put up the Christmas tree, hang the colorful Christmas lights, draft the Christmas guest list, set up the Christmas manger tableau, play the Christmas music on the stereo, shop for the Christmas turkey and attend multiple Christmas religious celebrations, I feel so – well – not under attack. We’ve had no ACLUers coming down the chimney. Night after night the neighborhood groups belt out the Christmas carols. Folks up and down the street can’t get within 10 feet without saying “Merry Christmas!” Stores around town have their “Christmas Sale” banners out and are running Christmas ads in our almost-daily, almost-newspaper.

Yet the Faux children and O’Reilly – that perpetual Ghost of All Things Past – are staffing the bunkers in their seasonal farce of the make-believe threats to what appears to be a normal Christmas here in the Oregon woods. Their ammunition is mostly gibberish interviews with weird people gesturing and babbling about threats to “take Christ out of Christmas.” But, like a lot of their endless other Faux skirmishes, they appear – to really thinking citizens – to be shooting blanks. Again.
I’ve checked a lot of other news sources – print – broadcast – I-net. All the “War on Christmas” references or links I can find go right back to Faux News.

Well, if it makes them feel better. Gets them through the stress of the holiday, as it were. Their irrational output on the dangers of Christians losing Christmas in a “war” that never was is less harmful to a lot of people than their other year-round Murdoch-directed mayhem.

Then there are those dead folks. Singing all those Christmas songs. Have you ever noticed? They’re all around now. Incidentally, I’m not a fan of what is called “piped” music. That’s the scratchy, tinny noise you get out of those little speakers in the ceilings of all the stores. I like music when I listen or dance. Good music. Professionally amplified. I don’t like music when I shop. Distracting. (more…)

Their dissolution is hard to watch

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Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and entrances;”

Why Willie Shakespeare put “exits” before “entrances” has always been a mystery. Had I been writing “As You Like It,” I’d have put them in reverse order – the way they really work. Well, so be it.

The need of some people to “exit” from the overwrought, noxious media stage and my life has been on my mind lately. An already limited patience is at an end when I hear certain names. I’ve even compiled a list – in no specific order – and herewith post it for those interested to see if they’re on it.

One name is “Kardashian” or any kinship thereto. The term “reality” has been attached to their grotesque lives. There’s nothing remotely real about any of ‘em – including the many silicone enhancements.
Speaking of “reality,” all those TV programs masquerading as such – which get no play at our house – made the list. All. They exist because they’re cheaper to produce than most other shows. Also, they require no talent to be on them – just strong stomachs and a has-been career in something else.

Keeping to false “reality, Bieber, Sheen Jr., Lohan, Jolie, Spears, Gervais, Beck, Limbaugh, are on the list. And Bachman, Gohmert, Gingrich, Santorum, Brewer, Walsh, West, Smith (2), Scott, Paul (2), Akin and the entire legislatures of states trying to discriminate against minority American voters. And, of course, for local Oregon consumption – Robinson. Time is long-past for them to “exit stage very far right” given the paucity of their contributions.

A special engraved “get outta my life” invitation goes to Trump – he of the squirrel-like hairpiece. We’re talking “unreality” here. Whatever credibility he has left is not measurable by any device known to man.

Then there’s John McCain and hand puppets Graham and Ayotte. While Graham has suffered previous humiliations of intellectual over-reach as a senator and McCain sycophant, Ayotte is new to the mix. Voters in New Hampshire got her out of the state by sending her to Washington. She’d do less harm there. Idaho did that with George Hansen and Steve Symms years ago. But I digress.

Why Ayotte has hitched her little freshman political wagon to the other two elephants is beyond me. Both McCain and Graham are existing on previous contributory credits and those credits are wearing thin.

It’s not hard to fault Graham – with his mediocre career – for looking like a fool recently. Allowing McCain’s hand up his back, he’s done things and said things at the senior senator’s behest- apparently without much thought to what he was doing – for several years. They’ve gotten so good together you can hardly see McCain’s lips moving when Graham is “talking.”

John McCain, however, is a whole other matter. His pre-political career was of such strength-of-steel stuff as to make him a legend while still in the Navy. Between what’s been documented and what’s been told by others who shared his Viet Nam P-O-W experiences, McCain showed the stuff of real courage. There is surely no doubt. Aside from military recognition, he’s earned many, many public accolades. Entirely justified. All of ‘em. (more…)

These are the souls that try men’s times

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

There was a time – at the end of four quarters or after nine innings or nine rounds or the last vote was counted – the game was over, play was concluded. Everybody shook hands and got back to work. But no more.

Now parents punch referees – a winning out-of-town high school football team has to run for the bus ahead of an angry home crowd – a pro baseball player charges into the stands – the fat lady stops singing, then punches the orchestra conductor. Losing political parties feast on their own candidates. And some of the candidates don’t get the message that their adoring public has just devoured them. Right, Mr. West?

The amount of anger and mayhem lying just below the surface of our society these days is huge. And it doesn’t take much to set it off once something – or someone – scratches it. Whether it’s sports, lousy weather, bad restaurant service or politics, seems many of us are just looking for a chance to angrily attack someone or something for any perceived slight.

While the picking on Mitt Romney’s corpse has not degenerated into physical violence – yet – the verbal mayhem has become very excessive. Poor Mitt is being blamed by his fellow losers for not only costing the GOP the White House and some seats in Congress, but for angering Christians and making them stay home. That last claim is not true, by the way. Only Franklin Graham thinks it is.

What brings this “it ain’t over” discourse to mind was a headline today saying many on the far right do not accept Barack Obama as President. Not just the outcome of his winning the November election. No, Sir. They don’t accept his presidency. Going back to day one. Period. And some say they’ll fight it every day he’s living in the White House.

The always empty tea “pots” of our times have come up with a new high in low for craziness. An Idaho state senator is circulating a letter from on high. No, not God. The National Tea Party whizbang. He wants all the little baggies to spread the word: “We can elect Mitt Romney if we can get 17 of the 24 states he won to boycott the Electoral College.” It ain’t legal. It ain’t gonna happen. It can’t be done. So he can return to his breakfast routine of Jimson Weed and that weird black brew.

It’s not just the bonafide idiots, we’re talking here. If you check several of the less far-out blogs on the right – the usually accepted RedState.com, for one – you’ll find that crazed rejection crap even there. Ballot boxes have been stored – poll workers have gone home – all votes tabulated and even certified in some places – yet several million folk won’t accept the outcome.

“So what?” you ask. “Most of us do and, even if we don’t like what happened, we’ll live with it for four more years.” Yes. Yes, you will.

The problem is, you don’t run the national Republican Party. And a lot of that ignorant, outright rejection is coming from – wait for it – “leadership” of that national Republican Party! Not just the malcontents and crazies in the basement. No. Some of the people who actually run the place. The ones who decide who gets on future ballots – and who doesn’t. The ones who famously brought you Bachman, Gingrich, Santorum, Cain, Paul, West, Walsh, Akin, Gohmert, Robinson et al.

A lot of Republicans are engaged, once again, in the always fruitless circular firing squad of blame. Romney’s goose has been cooked to a cinder. We’re hearing about bad organization, no organization, lousy demographics, bad polling, needing more Hispanics or African-Americans or Swedish plumbers, raising more money and better candidates. “All we have to do is say ‘We’ve changed’ and they will come” you hear. (more…)